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Gusts of Wind

Wind movements that last only a short period of time are referred to as gusts of wind, frequently connected to a change in the direction of the wind. These kinds of gusts of wind frequently occur in combination with a storm, and also with rain, sleet and snow.

Meteorologists refer to gusts when the speed of the wind changes by at least 5 m per second within a maximum of 20 seconds.

As opposed to a constant movement it is difficult to get a grip on gusts of wind. Frequently it is impossible to predict them. On land they can be triggered when there are great discrepancies in height on the ground. But they can also be due to varying degrees in temperature, which can suddenly lead to gusts of wind. When the gust of wind is perpendicular to the ground it is referred to as a down-gust.

Traffic on land is mainly impeded by gusts on bridges or when one leaves forests. An unexpected gust of wind can push the car into the oncoming lane of traffic or into the ditch. That is why the speed of the wind is shown before one enters a bridge crossing a valley, including the direction of the wind. Frequently one finds wind screens on long bridges, which protect against side winds.

However, gusts of wind are particularly dangerous on water. Unlike cars, which can be driven from their lane of traffic but not toppled over, a water vehicle can. A stiff breeze, even a storm, cannot really damage a boat because the crew is prepared and can adjust the sail area. These kinds of winds are even welcome if they are in the right direction. Contrarily, gusts of wind are not welcome at all, and in the worst case can capsize a boat and even cause it to sink.

Recent investigations show that gusts of wind are generally not the sole cause for sail boats sinking. Usually the cause also includes construction errors, or not storing the cargo correctly or having sail areas that are too big. A sudden gust which hits a boat from the side is capable of putting it into a sloping position making it possible for water to enter through open hatches. Then it is inevitable that the boat will capsize.

When a sudden gust hits that changes the direction of the wind, the crew on a sailboat will also not be capable of decreasing the sail area or adjusting the sailing position.

Gusts no longer pose a danger for modern boats. They do not offer a gust enough contact surfaces to capsize the boat.